Have you ever experienced brain fog after sitting for long hours in front of your computer screen? Do you find it difficult to remember important dates and names, and consequently land problems? You don’t need to worry about it as you’re not alone. We all experience diminished brain function after a tiresome day at work or if we are under continuous stress. Green tea, turmeric, pumpkin seeds, eggs, oranges, celery, broccoli, green leafy vegetables are some best brain foods with additional healing properties.
Moderate consumption of coffee and chocolates can help in raising your attention span. Some other brain food items are avocado, blueberries, flaxseeds, walnuts, and salmon which can enhance learning and memory.
Nature has provided us with a vast array of food items which protect our brain from the harmful free radicals and reactive oxygen species produced during inflammation, injury, and even the aging process.
These substances damage our nerves and alter the transmission of electrical impulses between the neurons which, in the long run, lead to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurodegenerative conditions.
Best brain foods
Although you considered broccoli your childhood nemesis, you’ll start respecting it when you realize broccoli is one of the best brain foods that do wonders to improve your brain function. It also plays a significant part in stabilizing your mood.
Broccoli is loaded with vitamin K and choline which sharpen your memory so that you won’t forget that appointment you had with that client! (1)
Anti-oxidants like vitamin C help to ward off Alzheimer’s disease (a neurodegenerative disease in the elderly) and fibers will help you digest food properly and even lose weight.
Research shows low folic acid and vitamin B12 levels often lead to depression and since our ‘wonder vegetable’ is full of these vitamins, it will keep depression and related illnesses at bay. (2)
Avocados keep your sugar levels under control and provide a glowing skin. However, their high-fat content usually prevents you from using it on a regular basis. You must know that avocado is rich in monosaturated fats which are suitable for your health. (3)
Eating avocados regularly replenish your vitamin B9 (folic acid) and B12 stores which are required to lower the chances of getting depression. (4)
Vitamin C, owing to its antioxidant activity, prevents early brain damage memory loss by the harmful free radicals which increase with age.
So, adding this brain food to your smoothie is not a bad idea as it provides a boost of nutrients and smooth texture to your morning drink.
The next time you gulp down a bar of chocolate, you don’t need to feel guilty because you’re actually enhancing your brain function and promoting the health of your neurons.
Flavonoids and other anti-oxidants in dark chocolate accumulate in the learning and memory centers of your brain, and hence, improve your learning capacity. (5)
Chocolate also improves mood and makes you cheerful by releasing the ‘feel good’ chemicals (dopamine and serotonin). (6)
Green leafy vegetables
‘Eat your greens,’ a phrase commonly used by our mothers finally makes sense. Green leafy vegetables like spinach, romaine lettuce, and kale contain high amounts of anti-oxidants and carotenoids (a form of vitamin A) which improve your brain power, and at the same time, prevent conditions like night blindness (occurs in vitamin A deficiency).
These vegetables are also rich in folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin K which minimize brain damage by free radicals and reactive oxygen species that accumulate with age.
A study including 950 older adults showed that those who consumed green leafy vegetables in their diet twice a day experienced lesser and delayed mental deterioration as compared to those who didn’t take the leafy greens.
All the confounding factors like age, lifestyle, smoking history and other co-morbidities were taken into account. (7)
You’ll be glad to know that your morning cup of coffee without which you can’t kick-start your day is actually good for your brain. Caffeine inhibits adenosine receptors in the brain. Since adenosine causes induction of sleep, coffee will antagonize its actions and make us alert and active (8)
The happy and giddy feeling that you get after consuming a steaming cup of coffee is because of higher levels of serotonin and dopamine, and reduced GABA and adenosine activity. (9)
Be it a single, large cup of coffee or 2-3 smaller cups a day, you will experience enhanced concentration and cognitive power. (10)
The antioxidant activity of coffee protects our brain from the shackles of the harmful free radicals hence, delays many neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. (11)
Other than the obvious use of pumpkins on Halloween, its seeds are also crucial for maintaining our health. Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper. (12)
Low serum zinc and copper levels are associated with various neurodegenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and depression. (13) Iron deficiency causes anemia (diminished red blood cells) and fatigue while low magnesium stores in the body impair learning and memory, and predispose us to depression. (14)
An inexpensive but priceless spice, turmeric, is slowly making its way into our recipes due to its healing effects on the body and brain.
Thanks to curcumin, its active component, this yellow spice shows various positive results. It is also one of the best brain foods that are easily available.
In patients of Alzheimer’s disease, curcumin delays the onset of dementia thus, improves memory. (15) Turmeric supplements show synergistic effects when added to anti-depressants by elevating mood and reducing suicidal thoughts in people suffering from major depression. (16)
Turmeric also promotes brain cell growth which leads to higher cognitive ability.
For all the fish lovers out there, you’re in for a pleasant surprise! The Alaskan wild-caught salmon (not farm-raised or regular wild-caught salmon) reduces brain fog, prevents ADHD in children, and at the same time, prevents some cancers of the brain.
All these benefits extracted from a delicious four-ounce serving of salmon are attributed to high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in it.
Of all the nuts out there, walnut stands out due to its excellent ability to boost our brain health. It contains high levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which play a protective role in our body while enhancing our concentration and memory.
A large quantity of vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acids) makes these delicious nuts nutritionally indispensable. (17)
Green tea, like coffee, is filled with high amounts of caffeine and anti-oxidants which confer alerting and mood elevating properties to it.
Green tea also boosts our focus, cognition, and memory while protecting us from dementia (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease). L-theanine (an amino acid in green tea) is a GABA agonist in the brain hence, alleviates anxiety and promotes relaxation. (18)
Blueberries contain certain phytochemicals like anthocyanins which have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They not only prevent brain damage and memory loss but also improve the transfer of information between our nerves. (19)
You can add some fresh berries to your cereal to make it more exciting. Blueberry smoothies and muffins are another way of combining these shiny blue spheres to your diet.
Flax seeds or linseeds, derived from the flax plant (a source of linen cloth), are superfoods with many benefits. Flax seeds are exceptionally high in omega-3 fatty acids, fibers, vitamin B-complex, and magnesium.
The anti-inflammatory action of fatty acids and antioxidant activity of phytochemicals protect our brain against harmful cytokines (inflammatory chemicals) and free radicals. Fibers increase satiety, and hence, help to reduce weight.
You must drink plenty of water while consuming flaxseeds as they may cause constipation. Also, if you buy whole seeds, grind them properly to extract maximum advantages. (20)
It’s a well-known fact that egg whites are one of the most abundant sources of proteins but what most people don’t know is that egg yolk is also a powerhouse of nutrients.
It contains a considerable quantity of choline which participates in the production of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Research shows that daily choline intake boosts our memory and stabilizes our mood. (21)
Low choline levels are also associated with fatty liver (fat accumulates in the liver and can cause liver failure in the long run).
Eggs are also rich in vitamin B9 (folic acid) and vitamin B12 (cobalamin) which promote the proper functioning of nerves and information transfer between neurons, and hence, can be used as an add-on therapy for depression. (22)
Orange is one of the best brain foods since it is also one of the most abundant sources of vitamin C which is known for its antioxidant activity.
Due to its ability to fight the damaging free radicals produced in our body, vitamin C plays a significant role in warding off age-related brain conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. (23)
You can meet your vitamin C requirement by eating one medium orange every day. Some other rich sources of vitamin C are guavas, lemons, tomatoes, strawberries, and bell peppers.
Various essential oils are available in the market out of which rosemary oil stands out owing to its protective action on the brain. It contains carnosic acid which prevents early brain aging and neurodegeneration by minimizing the harmful effects of free radicals. (24)
The extra virgin olive oil contains powerful anti-oxidants in the form of polyphenols which not only prevent age-related brain damage but also enhance our learning and memory. (25)Coconut oil also has benefits on the brain health and function owing to its anti-inflammatory activity.
These dark red, plump roots do justice to their grand appearance by providing a vast array of nutrients. It is one of the best brain foods.
Beets contain nitrates which dilate the vessels of our brain, and hence, increase the flow of blood and oxygen. (26) This clears off brain fog and improves the clarity of thought.
Beets also show anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activity which protects our body and brain from various illnesses including cancer.
Bone broth has multifaceted uses attributed to its exceptionally high nutrient content. It is primarily used to treat inflammatory bowel diseases (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease), rheumatoid arthritis, and various food allergies.
High levels of collagen in bone broth promote healing and minimize inflammation.
Fatty acids in bone broth improve general brain functions, and amino acids like glycine and proline improve memory and promote alertness. (27)
Getting enormous amounts of nutrients with a very low-calorie intake is a deal we can’t deny. We usually eat celery stalks as snacks and throw away the seeds and leaves. However, it’s important to know that the seeds and leaves have as many nutrients as the stalk if not more.
The anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activity of celery makes it useful in inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Luteolin, a flavonoid in celery, delays the aging process especially in the centers for memory and learning. (28)
Over to you on brain food
Now you must be aware of the various brain foods that have the potential to make your brain work faster and more efficiently.
From the horrors of childhood like broccoli, kale, and spinach, to your guilty pleasures such as chocolate and coffee, all these super brain foods refine your thinking capacity and boost your concentration.
Healing food items like turmeric, green leafy vegetables, bone broth, oranges, celery, pumpkin seeds, and nuts contain anti-oxidants which prevent age-related degeneration of your brain.